1965 was a very big year, for pop music and the Beatles. The British invasion was officially in swing, with bands like the Rolling Stones and the Who breaking new ground, as far as rock music went. The Beatles themselves were impossibly huge on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Albums like With the Beatles
, Please Please Me
, and Help!
were instantly snatched by fanatical teenage girls. They played on the Ed Sullivan Show
, one of the most historic and memorable moments in the history of pop and rock music, to this day. In 1965, the Beatles released Rubber Soul
, where they began to experiment slightly with different instruments and sounds, which would lead to albums like Revolver
and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
. The title, Rubber Soul
is a mere joke. During the British Invasion, black artists would say that the bands were "plastic soul," becuase they seemed to be fakes. I find it rather humurous that it is the title of a rather emotional album.
, thought a mere prequel to those later albums, is fantastic in its own right. Some may point out that the album is a mere artistic improvement, which most bands standardly go through. Whatever you may think of what the album is in the place of the Beatles, you can't deny that the album is packed with well-written, nearly perfect pop songs. Most of the songs hardly run longer than two and a half minutes, and the album as a whole is under 30 minutes, a perfect representation of the genius of the Beatles, and their ability to do so much with a simple two minute pop song. Rubber Soul
is actually quite varied, which was a rather pleasant surprised. The songs range from acoustic country-pop, to fairly rocking, R&B, and excursions into middle eastern music. The singing throughout the album is melodic and tuneful, and the vocal harmonies are extremely tight. George Harrison and Ringo Starr's playing are very tasteful, never going beyond what the songs called for. Paul McCartney's bass playing is one of the strong points of the album. His bass lines are melodic, bouncy, and catchy, proving him to be one of the first great bass players of rock music.
"I've Just Seen a Face" begins the album on a rather sad note. The song revolves around an acoustic shuffle, with moraccas and harmomy vocals during the chorus. Paul's vocals are top-notch, and provides a sad tone to the song. It's a fantastic opener, with one of the best choruses on the album. And the song that everyone knows, "Norwegian Wood". The song is one of the first times that a sitar, a traditional Indian instrument used by the likes of Ravi Shankar, was used in a pop song. The sitar playing adds a different tone to the song, and accompanies the acoustic guitar playing and John's voice very well. "You Won't See Me," and "Think For Yourself" are more of rock songs than the rest of the album. "Think For Yourself" contains a distorted guitar (or is it bass?), one of the first recordings it was ever used on. Here, the band harmonizes perfectly, as always. "Michelle" is quite possibly the best song on the album. It is another acoustic song, with "ooh" backing vocals, and Paul singing somewhat sadly, as if he's sitting on a couch singing to himself. The accompaniment is sparse, but beautiful nonetheless. "Girl," with John on vocals, is another acoustic track. It's a sad, minor-key song, with more great backing vocals, and is followed by the absolutely extraordinary "I'm Lookng Through You".The instrumentation is acoustic, again, with lyrics like "I'm looking through you / Where did you go? / I thought I knew you / What did I know?," and a random keyboard slam and guitar fills come in, and leave very quickly, adding a quirky touch to the song. Without a doubt, the song is the best on Rubber Soul
, and one of the best "early" Beatles songs, and is followed by the equally amazing "In My Life," with some great playing by George, and more perfect backing vocals. Rubber Soul
ends on "Run for Your Life," a rollicking, Bob Dylan-esque tune. John even sounds similar to Dylan's singing, and George provides some great guitar fills, a fantastic way to close the album.
, as we all should know by now, is the bridge that the Beatles built for themselves, just so they could finally cross the river that they had been looking across for so long. Everything about the album is absolutely amazing in every way. Paul and John's vocal abilities are stunning, never ceasing to amaze me. The harmony and backing vocals provided by the band are perversely tight and well organized, coming in at the right times. You can definately tell that Bob Dylan and other artists were starting to influence the band, or at lest John, especially in the final track. The album, for the most part, is a quiet, pleasant acoustic album, with George adding some electric guitar every once in awhile. Ringo keeps the beat perfectly the whole time, but never really stands out too much, allowing the rest of the band to shine. Though the album is very short, it's one of the most rewarding listens that I have ever taken. If you want to hear the Beatles before they became the true rock icons that they are, before the experimentation and vast progress, right when they were building that bridge, then you will definately want to buy Rubber Soul
. It's definately worth whatever you would have to pay for. It's an essential album from an essential band.